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Apple destroys government claim that it’s using encryption debate as a marketing tool

Published Mar 16th, 2016 7:45AM EDT
iPhone Hacking Apple

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When the DOJ filed its response brief last week, Apple attorneys didn’t even try to hide their disgust. During a colorful conference call with reporters, Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell was quick to call the DOJ’s accusations “offensive.”

In addition to suggesting that Apple “has a different and sinister relationship with China”, the DOJ also issued a thinly veiled threat indicating that it might seek to compel Apple to hand over the source code to iOS.

“In 30 years of practice,” Sewell added, “I don’t think I’ve seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case.”

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And speaking of false accusations, you might recall that the DOJ, on a few occasions, boldly categorized Apple’s staunch defense of encryption as nothing more than a cheap marketing ploy designed to curry favor with consumers and increase device sales.

Apple’s reluctance to assist the FBI, the DOJ wrote, is “based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”

Yesterday, Apple finally addressed such accusations head on, completely destroying the DOJ’s already flimsy and baseless argument in the process.

In a detailed footnote found in its response brief, Apple explained that encryption has never been used, referenced or alluded to in any of Apple’s marketing efforts. Additionally, Apple dismissed the notion that it implements security measures in order to “confound” law enforcement. On the contrary, Apple explained that it “prioritizes the security and privacy of its users, and that priority is reflected in Apple’s increasingly secure operating systems…”

The full footnote reads as follows:

The government accuses Apple of developing the passcode-based encryption features at issue in this case for marketing purposes. This is a reckless and unfounded allegation. Since passcode-based encryption was first introduced in October 2014, Apple has produced 627 separate ads in the United States and approximately 1,793 ads worldwide. These ads have generated 99 and 253 billion impressions, respectively. Not a single one advertised or promoted the ability of Apple’s software to block law enforcement requests for access to the contents of Apple devices.

The idea that Apple enhances its security to confound law enforcement is nonsense. Apple’s “chain of trust” process—which follows accepted industry best practices—is designed to secure its mobile platform against the never-ending threat from hackers and cyber-criminals. It is the same process that helps protect desktop computers from viruses and Trojan horses, and that ensures hackers do not tamper with the software on automobiles.

As an aside, it’s fascinating that Apple in about 17 months time has rolled out nearly 1,800 separate ads.

Apple’s full response can be read below.


Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.